West Side Story

With groundbreaking choreography by the legendary Jerome Robbins, book by Arthur Laurents, an unforgettable score by Leonard Bernstein and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, West Side Story changed the face of musical theatre for ever. Based on Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet and packed with unforgettable songs including Maria, Tonight, Somewhere, America and I Feel Pretty, West Side Story cemented it's reputation as a masterpiece when the movie version went on to win an incredible 10 Academy Awards - including Best Picture.

1958: Premiere West End London at Her Majesty's Theatre

1973: London Revival at the Collegiate Theatre

>1974: 1st West End London Revival at the Shaftesbury Theatre

1984: 2nd West End London Revival at Her Majesty's Theatre

1998: 3rd West End London Revival at the Prince Edward Theatre / Prince of Wales Theatre

2008/2013: London Revival at the Sadler's Well Theatre

Stephen Sondheim's musicals include Pacific Overtures, Merrily We Roll Along, Into the Woods, A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum, Gypsy, Follies, Saturday Night, Sunday in the Park with George, Sweeney Todd, A Little Night Music and the musical compilation Side by Side by Sondheim.


1958: Premiere West End London at Her Majesty's Theatre

Previewed 11 December 1958, Opened 12 December 1958, Closed 10 June 1961 at Her Majesty's Theatre

The original cast included George Chakiris as 'Riff', Don McKay as 'Tony', Ken Le Roy as 'Bernardo', Marlys Watters as 'Maria', and Chita Rivera as 'Anita'.

Directed and choreographed by Jerome Robbins, co-choreographed by Peter Gennaro, with sets by Oliver Smith, costumes by Irene Sharaff, and lighting by Joe Davis.

Prior to London this production, with the same cast, was staged at the Manchester Palace Theatre from Friday 14 November 1958 to Saturday 6 December 1958.

The preview performance on 11 December 1958 was a Royal Gala, attended by Princess Margaret, held in aid of the Royal Ballet School. It is believed that Princess Margaret must have liked the show because two months later, on Wednesday 25 February 1959, she returned to see the show again, this time accompanied by her sister, Queen Elizabeth II.


1973: London Revival at the Collegiate Theatre

Previewed 30 June 1973, Opened 3 July 1973, Closed 14 September 1973 at the Collegiate Theatre (now Bloomsbury Theatre)

The cast included Roger Finch as 'Riff', Jim Smilie (AKA James Smillie) as 'Tony', Peter Daly as 'Bernardo', Rosamund Shelley as 'Maria', and Clovissa Newcombe as 'Anita'.

Directed by Bill Kenwight, with original Jerome Robbins choreography reproduced by Robert Arditti, designs by John Marsh, lighting by Jules Zwimmer, and sound by Robert K Bush.

Presented for an 11-week season by David Gordon Productions (AKA Bill Kenwright). The Collegiate Theatre was choosen due to a lack of other suitable Central London venues being available.

This was the London 'transfer' of the re-staged revival that Bill Kenwright had presented on a 12-week regional tour in 1972 with a cast that included Ray Davis as 'Riff', Jim Smilie (AKA James Smillie) as 'Tony', Peter Daly as 'Bernardo', Veronica Page as 'Maria', and Clovissa Newcombe as 'Anita'. Directed by Kim Grant, with the original Jerome Robbins choreography reproduced by Robert Arditti, with designs and lighting by Cyril Gates, it visited Swindon Wyvern Theatre from Thursday 7 September to Saturday 23 September 1972; Norwich Theatre Royal from Monday 25 September to Saturday 7 October 1972; Sunderland Empire Theatre from Monday 9 October to Saturday 28 October 1972; Nottingham Theatre Royal from Monday 30 October to Saturday 4 November 1972; Manchester Palace from Monday 6 November to Saturday 18 November 1972; and Bristol Hippodrome from Monday 20 November to Saturday 2 December 1972. Although it was hoped to immediately transfer to London's West End, no suitable venue was available at the time.


1974: 1st West End London Revival

Previewed 12 December 1974, Opened 19 December 1974, Closed 19 July 1975 at the Shaftesbury Theatre

The cast included Roger Finch as 'Riff', Lionel Morton as 'Tony', Paul Hart as 'Bernardo', Christina Matthews as 'Maria', and Petra Siniawski as 'Anita'.

Directed by Bill Kenwright, with original Jerome Robbins choreography reproduced by Roger Finch, costumes by Janet Mills, and lighting by John Spradbery.

A co-production between Bill Kenwright and the Dublin-based impresario Noel Pearson. Prior to London's West End this production was due to open for a season at Dublin's Olympia Theatre on Tuesday 5 November 1974 but, just hours before it was due to open, on Tuesday afternoon disaster struck when a steel girder and chunks of ceiling mortar fell on to the stage and orchestra pit. Fortunately the theatre was empty at the time and no one was injured. With just hours before it was due to open, the performances where moved just over a mile away to the State Theatre in Phibsborough where the 'opening night' was presented in a concert-style version without any scenery. Despite this set-back, the revival was well received and, with some cast changes, it transferred to London's Shaftesbury Theatre in the West End, which coincidently was just reopening having been forced to close in July 1968 when part of the ceiling had fallen down over night in the auditorium forcing the musical Hair to close.

There was am extra 'Midnight Matinee' Charity performance of West Side Story on Wednesday 23 April 1975 held in aid of the Save London's Theatres Campaign, which had been instrumental in saving the Shaftesbury Theatre from being demolished immediately prior to West Side Story opening.


1984: 2nd West End London Revival

Previewed 8 May 1984, Opened 16 May 1984, Closed 28 September 1985 at Her Majesty's Theatre

The original cast included Richard A Pettyfer as 'Riff', Steven Pacey as 'Tony', Sam Williams as 'Bernardo', Jan Hartley as 'Maria', Lee Robinson as 'Anita'. During the run Peter Bruce took over as 'Tony, Christopher Hammond as 'Bernardo', and Karyn O'Neill as 'Maria'.

Original direction and choreography by Jerome Robbins, recreated by Tom Abbott, with sets by Martin Johns, and lighting by Chris Ellis.

Prior to London's West End this production, with the same cast except for Mairi Armstrong as 'Maria', was staged at the Leicester Haymarket Theatre for a 13-week season from Thursdy 24 November 1983 to Saturday 25 February 1984, followed by a ten-week tour visiting the Manchester Palace Theatre from Wednesday 29 February to Saturday 24 March 1984; Wolverhampton Grand Theatre from Tuesday 27 March to Saturday 7 April 1984; and Birmingham Hippodrome Theatre from Tuesday 10 April to Saturday 5 May 1984.


1998: 3rd West End London Revival

Previewed 1 October 1998, Opened 6 October 1998, Closed 9 January 1999 at the Prince Edward Theatre
Transferred from 22 January 1999, Closed 8 January 2000 at the Prince of Wales Theatre

A major revival of the legendary stage musical West Side Story in London

The original cast featured Edward Baker-Duly as 'Riff', David Habbin as 'Tony', Graham MacDuff as 'Bernardo', Katie Knight-Adams as 'Maria', Anna-Jane Casey as 'Anita', Irina Aggrey as 'Francisca', Paul Allnutt as 'Tora', Bernadene as 'Consuela', Jennifer Ashton as 'Anybodys', Paul Aves as 'Glad Hand', Sarah Basinger as 'Minnie', Philip Campbell as 'Action', Alexander Delamere as 'Officer Krupke', Celia Graham as 'Rosalia', Teddy Green as 'Doc', Alex Harkins as 'Baby John', Edward Hayes-Neary as 'Diesel', Joanne Henry as 'Teresita', Danny Hosier as 'Gee-Tar', Matthew Hudson as 'Nibbles', Nunzio Lombardo as 'Pepe', Justin Lucas Harris as 'Indio', Idris Moudi as 'Chino', Bonnie Parker as 'Velma', Rachel Pressland as 'Graziella', Andrew Prosser as 'A-Rab', Kevin Quarmby as 'Lieutenant Schrank', Kate Ryan as 'Clarice', Rachel Scarfe as 'Estella', Paul Tarling as 'Anxious', Steven-John Tokaya as 'Luis', Simon David Trout as 'Snowboy', and Leon Webster as 'Big Deal', with Michael Broughton, Lucie Fentum, Jye Frasca, and Ian Waller (resident choreographer).

Directed and choreographed Alan Johnson from the original by Jerome Robbins, with sets by Oliver Smith, costumes by Irene Sharaff, lighting by Mark Henderson, and sound by Rick Clarke. The entire production supervised by Arthur Laurents.

The role of 'Tony' was played by David Habbin up to Saturday 22 May 1999; and by Paul Manuel from Monday 24 May 1999 to Saturday 8 January 2000.

The role of 'Maria' was played by Katie Knight-Adams up to Saturday 11 September 1999; and by Celia Graham from Monday 13 September 1999 to Saturday 8 January 2000.

Edward Baker-Duly, Graham MacDuff, and Anna-Jane Casey played the roles of 'Riff', 'Bernardo', and 'Anita' for the entire run.

Edward Baker-Duly's London theatre credits include the ensemble in Ned Sherrin's revival of the Julian Slade and Dorothy Reynolds musical Salad Days at the Vaudeville Theatre in 1996.

Anna-Jane Casey's London theatre credits include the ensemble in the original cast of David Gilmore's revival of the Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey musical Grease at the Dominion Theatre in 1993; and the ensemble of John Caird's production of Stephen Schwartz's Children of Eden at the Prince Edward Theatre in 1990.

Prior to London's West End this production, with the same cast except for Tristan Temple as 'Luis', and the 'Swings' Lisa Kay, Michael Thompson, and Mark Stanway, was presented at the Plymouth Theatre Royal from Saturday 9 August 1997 to 30 August 1997, followed by a major 12-month regional tour: Manchester Opera House from Tuesday 2 September to Saturday 4 October 1997; Bristol Hippodrome from Tuesday 7 October to Saturday 25 October 1997; Liverpool Empire from Tuesday 28 October to Saturday 8 November 1997; Edinburgh Festival Theatre from Tuesday 11 November to Saturday 29 November 1997; Oxford Apollo Theatre from Tuesday 2 December to Saturday 13 December 1997; Birmingham Alexandra Theatre from Tuesday 16 December 1997 to 7 February 1998; Southampton Mayflower Theatre from Wednesday 11 February to Saturday 7 March 1998; Nottingham Theatre Royal from Tuesday 10 March to Saturday 21 March 1998; Aberdeen His Majesty's from Tuesday 24 March to Saturday 4 April 1998; Bradford Alhambra Theatre from Tuesday 7 April to Saturday 9 May 1998; Newcastle Theatre Royal from Tuesday 12 May to Saturday 30 May 1998; two week cast holiday; Cardiff New Theatre from Tuesday 16 June to Saturday 4 July 1998; Norwich Theatre Royal from Tuesday 7 July to Saturday 18 July 1998; Woking New Victoria Theatre from Tuesday 21 July to Saturday 8 August 1998; and Eastbourne Congress Theatre from Tuesday 11 August to Saturday 22 August 1998.

"The best reason to see the new West End West Side Story is to hear it - though one wishes one didn't have to hear some of the Puerto Rican and New York accents adopted by the almost entirely British cast... Yet, however compelling it still is to hear, West Side Story - which was once the most up-to-date of all musicals - has now become, to look at, a period piece. This revival's programme tells us that the original direction and choreography by Jerome Robbins have been reproduced by Alan Johnson; and it often looks as if these young British performers have been taught every flick of the fingers, every a'la seconde, every hand-to-cheek gesture from a 40-year-old production-book... Still, this revival is at best a very tepid facsimile of the original. Robbins's letter may be honoured here, but not his spirit." The Financial Times

"Had time and familiarity pushed West Side Story across the gap that separates the living masterpiece from that institutional-sounding thing, the 20th-century classic? The programme, which proclaimed 'Jerome Robbins's Original Direction and Choreography Reproduced by Alan Johnson', was not encouraging. And then a paradox occurred. The reproduction felt original... But when Maria's friend, Anna-Jane Casey's excellent Anita, denounces Tony in song you feel the racial bile... The Puerto Rican girls stylishly swirl and swivel; but when the males enter the equation everything becomes fierce and angular, hot and angry. As the invention and the clatter intensify, you feel you are watching uncontainable hormones bursting from bodies. You feel you are watching testosterone transformed into movement. You are watching West Side Story as it was meant to be." The Times

"West Side Story is still one of the great powerhouses of the musical theatre, a dynamic, heart-lifting spectacle that grabs its audience by the throat in the opening moments and deposits it, some two-and-three-quarter hours later, limp but ecstatic in the street outside. Having thrilled large chunks of the country on tour, Alan Johnson's production [comes to] London. A vibrant young cast, among whom I thought Katie Knight-Adams as Maria, the show's Juliet, and David Habbin, her Romeo, outstanding, scorch the stage: Arthur Laurents's script has lost none of its bite, and the young Stephen Sondheim's lyrics to those marvellous songs - Tonight, Somewhere, I Feel Pretty and the rest - shine like chrome hubcaps on a new Chevvy. Hurry over to the West Side for an exhilarating evening." The News of the World

The musical West Side Story in London at the Prince Edward Theatre previewed from 1 October 1998, opened on 6 October 1998 and closed on 9 January 1999, transferred to the Prince of Wales Theatre from 22 January 1999, and closed on 8 January 2000.


2008/2013: London Revival

Previewed 22 July 2008, Opened 24 July 2008, Closed 31 August 2008 at the Sadler's Wells Theatre
Previewed 7 August 2013, Opened 8 August 2013, Closed 22 September 2013 at the Sadler's Well Theatre

Joey McKneely's major revival of the classic dance musical West Side Story in London for a strictly limited Summer season

Joey McKneely's vibrant stage production of this classic musical features Jerome Robbins' original choreography, as fresh as it has ever been, and an excellent cast renowned for their stunning energy and technical brilliance.

The 2008 cast featured Leo Ash Evans as 'Riff', Ryan Silverman or Scott Sussman as 'Tony', Marco Santiago as 'Bernardo', Elisa Cordova or Sofia Escobar as 'Maria', Lana Gordon or Oneika Phillips as 'Anita', Julian Alvarez as 'Chino', Tanya Birl as 'Teresita', Justin Braboy-Hapner as 'Snow Boy', Shawn Burgess as 'Pepe', Sara Dobbs as 'Anybodys', Stuart Dowling as 'Glad Hand', Lindsay Dunn as 'Velma', Miguel Edson as 'Moose', Brett Emmons as 'Nibbles', Maya Flock as 'Rosalia', Ryan Ghysels as 'Gee-Tar', Joe Gioco as 'Doc', John Arthur Greene as 'Action', Steve Greenstein as 'Officer Krupke', Daniel Harder as 'Anxious', Shayna Harris as 'Clarice', Robert Ierardi as 'Lieutenant Schrank', Logan Keslar as 'Big Deal', Edward Lawrence as 'Tiger', Marina Lazzaretto as 'Minnie', Jennifer Locke as 'Estella', Stanley Martin as 'Luis', Danielle Morgan as 'Margarita', Anthony Napoletano as 'Baby John', Ian Paget as 'A-Rab', Waldemar Quinones-Villanueva as 'Indio', Sarah Real as 'Consuela', Jacquelyn Scafidi as 'Pauline', Tanairi Vazquez as 'Francisca', Victor James Wisehart as 'Diesel', and Kimberly Wolff as 'Graziella'.

The 2013 cast featured Mark MacKillop as 'Riff', Liam Tobin or Anthony Festa as 'Tony', Pepe Munoz as 'Bernado', Elena Sancho Pereg or Jessica Soza as 'Maria', Penelope Armstead-Williams as 'Anita', Travante Semale Baker as 'Nibbles', Hannah Balagot as 'Anybodys', Alexa De Barr as 'Minnie', Michael Bishop as 'Anxious', Michael Bullard as 'Baby John', Blue Cervini as 'Clarice', Matthew Couvillon as 'A-Rab', Dominique DeNinis as 'Velma', Maya Flock as 'Rosalia', Luke Hawkins as 'Action', Tiffany Mellard as 'Francisca', Beau Middlebrook as 'Snow Boy', NaTonia Monet as 'Consuela', Sheridan Mouawad as 'Estella', Nick Nerlo as 'Chino', Christian Elan Ortiz as 'India', Christie Poertera as 'Graziella', Andrew Purcell as 'Diesel', Doug Rees as 'Doc', Eric Rolland as 'Glad Hand', Mel Shrawder as 'Officer Krupke', Nicholas Sipes as 'Geetar', Adam Soniak as 'Luis', Charles South as 'Pepe', Brandon Patrick Stonestreet as 'Big Deal', Naomie C Walley as 'Margarita', Melanie Wildman as 'Pauline', Natalie M Williams as 'Teresita', John Wojda as 'Lieutenant Schrank', Annando Yearwood Jr as 'Moose', and Mitchell Woodcock (Dance Captain).

Directed and choreographed by Joey McKneely, based on the original by Jerome Robbins, with sets by Paul Gallis, costumes by Renate Schmitzer, lighting by Peter Halbsgut, and sound by Rick Clarke.

Following both the 2008 and 2013 Season's at London's Sadler's Wells Theatre this production embarked on a major regional and international tour.

"Joey McKneely's touring production, last seen at Sadler's Wells in 2008, is faithful to the original show (Robbins's choreography can't be touched) but brings a feisty, youthful energy, full of surging movement if a little lacking in menacing thuggery when the Polish-American Jets and the Puerto Rican Sharks face off against each other... Penelope Armstead-Williams is a joy as fiery Sharks girl Anita, which makes her violent fate all the more upsetting. Meanwhile, opera-trained Spaniard Elena Sancho-Pereg brings affecting sensitivity to the lead role of Maria and Liam Tobin's soaring singing voice makes for an appealing Tony, even if he is too preppily clean-cut to make a believable gang banger. Singing can be variable but a spirited rendition of Gee, Officer Krupke is a highlight." The London Metro

"After a mixed reception in America on its debut in 1957, Jerome Robbins and Leonard Bernstein's dance musical opened in London a year later. The British critics had no such doubts and recognised the groundbreaking production for what it was: a bona-fide classic, one of the most extraordinary pieces of musical theatre ever created. Fifty years on, it still shines like a diamond in a sea of rhinestones. How many current musicals clogging up the West End stages can boast a catalogue of songs that include, Maria, Tonight, America, I Feel Pretty or (Somewhere) A Place For Us to name fewer than half its songs? This 50th-anniversary touring production directed by Joey McKneely lands on the stage of Sadler's Wells with a stunning international cast and a truly inspired orchestra, led by Donald Chan. For those who have only ever seen the movie version, it is an absolute must... The terrific lyrics by Stephen Sondheim intelligently combine the street slang of the Fifties with the concerns of society at large - especially in the brazen wit of Gee, Officer Krupke - one of the funniest songs about juvenile delinquency ever written." The Daily Express

"The Jerome Robbins estate has given permission for new sets and costumes, but Robbins's choreography stays exactly as it was. This homage to a glorious past could have had all the bite of worthy pastiche...but from the minute the orchestra launched into the overture, all doubts were swept away. Every choreographic gesture is there to create plot and define character, you may have to insert your own expletives into the anachronistically polite, stay-cool-daddio youth-speak to make it more realistic, but it has lost none of its sharpness; there is the roster of some of the greatest songs ever written, streets ahead of the more self-consciously arty music Bernstein wrote for Candide... Paul Gallis's new set - a cage of tenement balconies and fire escapes - is fine for arid inner-city drabness, with some oppressively Gotham City-style Manhattan backdrops to reinforce the point. The American Jets and Puerto Rican Sharks have been chosen with a sharp eye - definitely not a team of central-casting hoofers." The Sunday Telegraph

The choreographer Joey McKneely said: "To me, it is not West Side Story without the Jerome Robbins choreography. There have been versions where it has been done a bit differently. A German company did a production where the set looked like the ruins of the Twin Towers and the choreography became an apocalyptic thing. That's not the same to me. I love West Side Story and I feel a certain responsibility to pass this great show on to the next generation. It changed my life when I was introduced to it." McKneely worked with West Side Story's original choreographer, Jerome Robbins, in 1989. For the six months they worked together in Jerome Robbins' Broadway he studied Robbins intensely, discovering the reasoning, iron will, and discipline behind the dance steps. In 2000, he was invited to direct West Side Story for La Scala. His Broadway credits include providing the choreography for The Boy From Oz starring Hugh Jackman and the Cy Coleman and Ira Gasman musical This Life, the musical staging for the Leiber and Stoller musical Smokey Joe's Cafe and the choreography, based on the original by Jerome Robbins, for the 2009 bi-lingual revival of West Side Story.

West Side Story in London at the Sadler's Well Theatre previewed from 7 August 2013, opened on 8 August 2013, and closed on 22 September 2013